Two fingers and a tooth removed from the exhumed body of Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei nearly 300 years ago were rediscovered yesterday. They had last been seen over 100 years ago in a sealed glass jar. When a similar sounding container went up for auction recently, a donor to the Museum of the History of Science in Florence nabbed it, delivering the jar and its contents to museum director Paolo Galluzzi. These last remnants of the famous astronomer will now remain at the museum in Florence.
Strange and morbid? Yes. But as it turns out, the historical resting place of famous body parts is cause for widespread debate. Here are some of the more famous body parts to go missing through the years.
John Wilkes Booth’s Neck Bones: After assassinating President Lincoln, Booth was hunted by police for 12 days. The chase finally ended when he was shot in the neck. Surgeon General Joseph K. Barnes and Dr. Joseph Woodward performed Booth’s autopsy, removing three vertebrae from his neck in order to access the bullet. He never got them back. While this famous murderer lies in an unmarked grave in Baltimore, Booth’s neck bones reside inside the Beltway at D.C.’s National Museum of Health and Medicine.
Einstein’s Brain: It seems Dr. Thomas Harvey, the doc who performed Albert Einstein’s autopsy, had read his fair share of Mary Shelley. Einstein’s family and friends intended to cremate him, but this pilfering pathologist had other plans. Harvey snatched the brain, and kept it in two mason jars in his Wichita home for 30 years before finally admitting the truth. The brains were later dispersed among the scientific community for further study, but for decades Harvey had the greatest conversation mantelpiece the world had ever known.
Napoleon’s Penis: When exiled emperor Napoleon Bonaparte died on May 5, 1821, doctors performed an autopsy with a collection of reported witnesses including a priest by the name of Ange Vignali. The body was sold intact after the autopsy, but the penis was found to be missing. In 1916, Vignali’s heirs attempted to sell a collection of Napoleonic artifacts including Napoleon’s Boner-part. No one knows if it is “authentic,” but the penis has sold several times. According to Mental Floss, it’s currently in the possession of an American urologist.
Mrs. Poe’s Bones: While Edgar Allan Poe was reburied in Baltimore after a derailed train destroyed his original grave site, his wife Virginia had no kin to claim her. William Gill, an early Poe biographer, gathered her bones and stored them in a box he hid under his bed. We have no proof, but we believe that gave Gill some freaky nightmares, causing him to finally return the bones to the grave site in 1885 for the 76th anniversary of Poe’s birth.
John Wayne Bobbitt’s Penis: Sadly the only “happy” ending on our list, the penis of abusive husband John Wayne Bobbitt was successfully reattached by Dr. David Berman during a nine and a half hour operation. Wife Lorena removed the penis with a carving knife after John allegedly raped her. She fled the scene, throwing the penis in a nearby field. Both John and Lorena were acquitted of all charges, but the media frenzy that ensued forever connected John with the concept of a severed penis. He would later try to capitalize on his misfortune, releasing numerous adult films including John Wayne Bobbitt Uncut and Frankenpenis. He also appeared as a character on the World Wrestling Federation’s Monday Night Raw.